We finally have a tiny taste of experimental French-Argentinian director Gaspar Noé’s surprise film, Vortex, about an elderly couple in their final days in Paris. Not much is known about the project other than it stars acclaimed Italian filmmaker Dario Argento as the unnamed Father character, and it’s shot entirely in split-screen. IndieWire shared an exclusive clip that shows the couple having a toast on their back porch, though sinister music hints all is not well.

A Change of Pace for Noé

Noé has become infamous on the festival circuit because of the intense, sometimes oppressive nature of his films. His 2002 revenge film Irreversible features a nine-minute long, single-shot rape sequence. His films I Stand Alone (1998) and Love (2015) both feature onscreen unsimulated sex acts. All of his movies are shocking and transgressive, intended to leave audiences shaken. Early reviews for Vortex have said this is a completely different side of Noé than anything we’ve seen before, which the clip seems to show.

While the story might not be typical of Noé, shooting an entire film in split-screen is something well within his oeuvre. He previously worked in split-screen for parts of his short film Lux Aeterna as well as a Yves Saint Laurent commercial. According to IndieWire, he was partly inspired by Paul Morrisey‘s 1982 film Forty Deucewhich stars Kevin Bacon as a male sex worker in Manhattan.

Finding the Truth in Between

“These are two forms of life that are not shared but they are complementary,” Noe told IndieWire. “Each one is living in their own tunnel, but each one is interlaced with the other one. Life is a bit like that. The only true reality is the addition of all the perceptions of it.”

By showing us split realities, Noé hopes that we can find the truth somewhere in the middle. He knows the idea of watching a movie with two concurrent screens might be distracting, but feels that it makes multiple viewings all the more powerful.

“In this case, you may be surprised by the first takes of the split screen but after a minute you forget it. Your eyes are moving from the left to the right all the time. People have told me the second time they see the movie they’re rediscovering it,” he said.

While he didn’t originally plan to shoot the entire movie in split-screen, he changed his mind during production and decided to go back and reshoot some scenes.

“[…] I wasn’t sure at all that I would keep it. Sometimes when you start editing a movie it starts to shape its own personality,” he said. “It’s like a baby with its own needs. In the editing room, the movie is forcing you to do things because it’s in evidence once you have the material.”

A U.S. distributor for Vortex has not yet been revealed, but Wild Bunch is handling sales.

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